Microsoft is acting like Apple -- and it's a good thing

Microsoft surface bookScreenshotMicrosoft Surface Book, the company’s first laptop.

The Microsoft Surface Book, the company’s first ever laptop, is taking a page from Apple’s playbook.

Say what you want about late Apple cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs, but he got one big thing right: Design matters.

By seizing control of every aspect of its products, Jobs’ Apple was able to make sure that every single element of every device was up to snuff.

There’s only one company that makes Apple computers, and every single one of those computers has been optimised down to every detail.

Meanwhile, pity poor Microsoft. It spends a lot of time and energy building each version of Windows — only to see many of its PC manufacturer partners build hardware that doesn’t always play nice with Microsoft’s software. It ends up giving Microsoft a bad name.

Here’s a good example: Apple’s MacBook laptops have the best mouse trackpads in the business, because Apple builds them to work seamlessly with the Apple OS X operating system. Meanwhile, Microsoft has to make sure that Windows works with every single computer out there, and struggles to get manufacturers to build better trackpads.

Well, if Microsoft has its way, this won’t be the case much longer. With the Surface Book, Microsoft has total control over where and how Windows gets run on a real computer, for the first time ever.

The Surface Book separates out into a tablet and a keyboard, much like the Surface Pro before it.

Crucially, Microsoft is positioning the Surface Book as a laptop that’s also a tablet, compared with the Surface Pro, which it bills as a “tablet that can replace your laptop.” The Surface Book has a lot more horsepower than the Surface Pro, with Microsoft claiming it’s twice as fast as the MacBook Pro.

The Surface Book looks to be the ideal Windows 10 device: It’s thin, light, and packs a lot of punch. Plus, with a touchscreen, it’s optimised for the Windows Universal Apps that Microsoft has been pushing to Windows 10 developers.

In other words, it’s exactly what Microsoft wants you to think of when you think of Windows 10.

It’s something that Microsoft has slowly been building towards for years: A lot of PC vendors bundle in so-called “bloatware,” or pre-installed apps that can slow your system down and present a nuisance. But any PC you buy from Microsoft directly, the Surface line included, is billed as a “Signature Edition” machine — meaning, no pre-installed vendor software. It’s the closest you can get to Microsoft’s perfect vision for Windows.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4MicrosoftMicrosoft Surface Pro 4.

Microsoft is caught in a tricky position here. It can’t completely cut Windows PC manufacturers out of the picture, because it still relies on them to spread Windows throughout the world on their machines.

So Microsoft needs to move cautiously in its new dual role as a maker of the world’s number one PC operating system and as a maker of PCs.

On the other hand, Windows computer manufacturers have no choice but to work with Microsoft, since there’s not really another viable alternative operating system that they can put on their PCs.

It’s a careful balancing act: Microsoft can slowly but surely try to show customers and manufacturers alike that there is a way to a better Windows experience, by showing what happens when the hardware and software work in perfect harmony. And if it can keep turning Surface into a revenue-driving business, so much the better.

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